How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

by Darren Cason

It is quite likely that either yourself or an acquaintance has been the victim of a criminal phenomenon known as identity theft. Conservative estimates by the Federal Trade Commission quote figures of around 9 million Americans who each year have their identities stolen. It can be in many different guises. Perhaps your identity is used by a thief to rent an apartment, or to start up a telephone account. Some will establish a credit card in your name. By the time that you make the discovery, usually after receiving a credit card statement or the like, thousands of dollars may have gone astray. You may begin to question your sanity when you notice charges on the statement and can’t recall making them and when the debt collector calls, you begin to panic. The purpose of this article is to provide you with some guidance in preventing identity theft from ever occurring.

Step #1: Carefully read over and check every one of your monthly bills. It may be that the thief begins his campaign in a small way, to test whether or not you notice. If you are able to report the false charge as soon as you discover it, your financial institution will place a block to prevent further illegal transactions. If you fail to notice the small charges, though, after just a few months the thief will become more confident and may even spend thousands of your money illegally. It then becomes much more difficult to to get rid of them.

Step #2: Be sure to shred any information that may provide a thief with personal details. It is all too easy for people to simply throw out old bills that often contain their personal details. Believe it or not, there are people out there who are low enough to make a very profitable career from “dumpster diving” – searching through other people’s rubbish to get the information they need to steal another person’s identity. Piece by piece, they obtain enough information to use your identity for their gain. Be sure to shred any “checks” – you know, the ones that come with the credit card statement – thieves love them. They are also notoriously high in interest rates should you choose to use them.

Step #3: As you religiously monitor your monthly credit card rewards or points, you must also obtain your credit report annually – it is free, so take advantage of it as it will not only assist you in identifying any false or illegal use of your credit, such as an account at Chase flexible rewards programs set up in your name by an identity thief, but it will also help you keep track of any anomalies in the report that required deletion. It is easy to track the points you earned from Chase flexible rewards program. Likewise, a convenient way to obtain these reports is to visit annualcreditreport.com and request a copy from each of the three major credit bureaus.

Step #4: Ensure that all your personal identifying information is held in a secure place. Don’t carry important things such as your social security card in your wallet – if you lose it and it is picked up by an opportunistic thief, they will have a field day. All the information they will need to steal your identity is right there for them.

Identity theft is a serious problem and it is on the rise. Many people are forced to spend hundreds of dollars to rectify a situation where their reputation has been compromised. If you choose to follow the above steps you are well on the way to protecting yourself from this insidious problem.

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